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City Laws and Enforcement Continue to Confuse

August 25, 2010

As further proof of the many nonsensical “laws” and haphazard enforcement by state and city government agencies, we now have the “cupcake truck” controversy.  On Tuesday, August 24, 2010, Buttercream Philly was setting up to sell its delicious assortment of cupcakes at 33rd and Market in University City for its weekly stop at that location.  Before she could do so, the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections halted her, blocked her from leaving and issued a “Report of Removal” for “Vending in a prohibited area.”  Buttercream Philly’s proprietor, Kate Carrara, a former lawyer, argued – to no avail – that she had a roving city permit and was not forbidden from that location.  L&I then had someone drive the truck away, leaving Ms. Carrara out on the street without a ride.  In addition to one day’s lost profits, she also had to pay $200 to the city to retrieve the vehicle.

Now all would be fair if Ms. Carrara was clearly in the wrong.  The problem is that there’s hardly anything ever clear about Philadelphia city laws.  The city’s website provides directions on how to obtain a permit, which is nice, and then supposedly gives a link to the prohibited streets, where one cannot vend

  • Under 33rd Street, the list states, “250 FEET SOUTH OF SOUTHEASTERN CORNER OF 33RD & WALNUT.”  Market is not south of Walnut.
  • For Market Street, it states, “(BETWEEN). FRONT ST AND THE SCHUYLKILL RIVER.”  33rd Street is not between Front and the Schuylkill.
  • Then, there’s this listing for Market Street as well, “MARKET STREET 31ST TO 33RD STREET.”    

So to sum up, she can park north of Walnut Street on 33rd Street and also on Market Street between 33rd and 34th Street.  Even if she was between 32nd and 33rd Street, does it really make sense to impound her vehicle instead of asking her to move across the street?  With all the crime and other illegal behavior going on in the city, it appears enforcing questionable and non-existent laws and imposing $200 fines is the way for city officials to go about its business.

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